Charles Bassey

Grizzlies Apply For Second DPE; Spurs Granted One

The Grizzlies have formally applied for a disabled player exception following Ja Morant‘s shoulder injury, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The move had been anticipated since Memphis announced earlier this week that Morant would miss the rest of the season following surgery to repair a torn labrum. The Grizzlies faced a deadline of January 15 to submit their request to the league.

A disabled player exception gives an over-the-cap team some extra spending power – but not an additional 15-man roster spot – when it loses a player to an injury deemed likely to sideline him through at least June 15. As we explain in our glossary entry, the exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade.

The disabled player exception can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract. The exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the value of the mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Since Morant is earning $34MM+ this season, the Grizzlies’ DPE would be worth $12,405,000, the amount of the non-taxpayer MLE.

Memphis has already been granted one disabled player exception this season — the team was awarded a $6.3MM DPE following Steven Adams‘ season-ending knee surgery. While the Grizzlies may not end up using both exceptions (assuming their request for Morant is approved), their team salary is well below the luxury tax line, so they have some financial flexibility to explore possible uses for those DPEs on the trade market.

In other disabled player exception news, the Spurs’ request for a DPE following Charles Bassey‘s season-ending ACL tear has been approved, Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter). Bassey was only earning $2.6MM this season, so that exception will be worth a modest $1.3MM, limiting its usefulness.

The deadline to use as disabled player exception this season is March 11. Any DPE that hasn’t been used by that point will expire. The full list of available disabled player exceptions can be found right here.

Spurs Apply For Disabled Player Exception For Bassey

The Spurs have submitted a request for disabled player exception following Charles Bassey‘s season-ending ACL injury, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

A disabled player exception grants an over-the-cap team some extra spending power when it loses a player to an injury deemed likely to sideline him through at least June 15.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade. A DPE can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

The disabled player exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the value of the mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Since Bassey was only earning $2.6MM this season, the Spurs’ DPE (if granted) would only be worth $1.3MM, so its usefulness would be extremely limited.

Additionally, while the disabled player exception gives a team extra cap flexibility, it doesn’t open up an extra spot on the 15-man roster. The club must have a roster spot available to use the DPE to add a player, which the Spurs currently don’t.

Still, while San Antonio may not end up having any use for a disabled player exception, it can’t hurt to apply and potentially add one more minor asset to its toolbox ahead of next month’s trade deadline.

So far this season, the Bulls, Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers have been granted DPEs, while the Knicks have reportedly applied for one as well.

Southwest Notes: Collins, Thompson Twins, Rockets, Pelicans

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said center Zach Collins could be sidelined “two to four weeks” with a right ankle sprain he suffered Friday at Portland, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The team had Collins stay home for Sunday’s game rather than put more pressure on his ankle by attending to sit on the bench.

Collins began the season as San Antonio’s starting center before recently moving into a reserve role. He’s in his third year with the Spurs and has been able to revive his career after missing the entire 2020/21 season due to a fractured fibula.

Popovich also provided a medical update on Charles Bassey, saying he’s doing well after undergoing surgery to repair his torn ACL (Twitter link). Bassey suffered the injury last month in a game with the Spurs’ G League affiliate.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson will have their first NBA meeting tonight when the Rockets host the Pistons, and Kelly Iko and James L. Edwards of The Athletic talked to the twins about the role that older brother Troy had in shaping their careers. “Without him, I don’t know if I’d like basketball as much as I did growing up,” Ausar said. “Troy always believed in us … ever since I was little, he always thought we were the greatest basketball players at our age that he had ever seen. He just didn’t think we could beat him. Having someone, and even my whole family, who believes in you like that, it makes you believe and keep going.”
  • With Detroit finally getting a win Saturday after dropping 28 straight games, it’s the Rockets who will come into tonight’s contest on a losing streak, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston has lost three in a row, all at home, and the defensive identity the team built early in the season is slipping. Feigen notes that the Rockets have the league’s worst defensive rating over their past three games and have allowed their last three opponents to shoot a combined 41.3% from three-point range. The defense might get a boost with the return of Jabari Smith, who missed Friday’s game with a sprained ankle but was upgraded to questionable on Sunday.
  • Zion Williamson believes the Pelicans‘ embarrassing 44-point loss to the Lakers in the semifinals of the in-season tournament might have been “one of those blessings in disguise,” per Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans has gone 7-3 since that game, including a 20-point win Sunday night in a rematch with L.A. “We went to Vegas hoping for a different outcome,” Williamson said. “I think it definitely brought us together more as a team. It definitely brought us closer as a staff. Everyone communicating. I feel like we have been playing great. We still have some things to figure out. But so does every other team.”

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Morant, Nowell, Green, Bassey

Dillon Brooks doesn’t know what kind of reception to expect when he returns to Memphis on Friday, but he’s been looking forward to it ever since he signed with the Rockets this summer, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Brooks’ new team has beaten the Grizzlies twice already, including on Wednesday night, but both games were played in Houston. He knows the atmosphere will be different in front of the fans at FedEx Forum.

“I can’t wait to get back out there playing,” Brooks said. “This has been circled out there on my schedule.”

For six seasons, Brooks was a fiery part of a brash Grizzlies team, clashing with opponents and challenging teammates to raise their intensity level. However, after saying last month that he felt like a “scapegoat” for the team’s playoff loss to the Lakers, he’s not sure how Memphis fans will receive him.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I miss the Forum. I just can’t wait to get out there, shoot on the court and see what it’s all about. We’ll see what happens.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Ja Morant, who may be nearing the end of his suspension, will speak to the media Friday morning, Cole tweets. If commissioner Adam Silver agrees to reinstate Morant after 25 games, he will be eligible to return Tuesday at New Orleans.
  • With the Grizzlies facing a roster crunch ahead of Morant’s return, they’re not likely to keep Jaylen Nowell, whose second 10-day contract expired Wednesday. Nowell called his time with the organization “a blessing,” according to Cole (Twitter link). “They accepted me, and I’m real thankful for that,” he said. “I definitely think that these guys are going to pick it up and be one of the best teams in the West, for sure.”
  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka is proving that he’s willing to bench anyone who isn’t performing up to expectations, notes Kelly Iko of the Athletic. Jalen Green sat out the entire fourth quarter for the second straight game on Wednesday amid a poor shooting night and questionable decision making. “Play harder like the group that was in,” Udoka responded when asked about his advice for Green. “It starts with effort. Continuing the play through it. Learn from those things, but it’s not always a result of what they don’t do. It’s more so the other lineup and what they’re doing.”
  • Spurs teammates say Charles Bassey is in good spirits despite suffering a season-ending ACL tear, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “He is resilient,” Collins said. “He has come back from stuff before. He is a very positive guy. But we are going to miss him.”

Spurs’ Charles Bassey Suffers Season-Ending ACL Injury

Spurs big man Charles Bassey has a torn left ACL and will miss the remainder of the season, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets.

Bassey suffered the injury on Sunday while playing for San Antonio’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. Bassey was averaging 3.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 10.8 minutes per game with the NBA club in 19 appearances this season.

Bassey had been sent to the G League to get more playing time. His last NBA outing was Dec. 1, a 19-minute stint against New Orleans.

This isn’t the first major injury he’s suffered since joining the Spurs. His 2022/23 season was cut short in mid-March due to a non-displaced patella fracture.

Bassey, who played with Philadelphia in his rookie season, signed a four-year, $10.2MM contract with San Antonio in February. However, the final two years of the contract are not guaranteed. He’s making $2.6MM this season in the second year of the deal.

Bassey’s latest injury could open up more playing time for fellow reserve center Sandro Mamukelashvili.

Spurs Notes: Collins, Wemby, Sochan, Mamukelashvili, Jones

After starting the first 20 games of the season for the Spurs, center Zach Collins came off the bench for the first time this fall in Friday’s loss to Chicago. While many players would view it as a demotion to be removed from the starting lineup, Collins says he understands why head coach Gregg Popovich made the move and suggested he’s on board with it, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).

“Having more firepower coming off the bench is always going to help us take some relief off the starters,” Collins said. “Hopefully this spacing-wise will work a little better.”

Popovich said after the game that he “absolutely” intends to stick with this lineup change at least in the short term, so Collins will have to get used to playing with the second unit. After a strong showing on Friday that saw him put up 12 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in 23 minutes of action, the big man told reporters that it’s just a matter of adjusting mentally to the new role.

“I always said when you come off the bench, you don’t have the luxury of starting the game and getting into it fast, getting your body going, getting your mind into the game,” he said. “So you have to stay locked in even though you’re not in the game.”

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Victor Wembanyama had a monster night in his first start at center, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game (he had 21 and 20, respectively), according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Unfortunately for the Spurs, it wasn’t enough to prevent their 16th consecutive loss.
  • Jeremy Sochan came off the bench for the first time this season on Wednesday before being reinserted into the starting lineup on Friday. Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News says Sochan’s confidence appeared to be shaken after Wednesday’s contest, with the 20-year-old deferring to the coaching staff when asked if he learned something from his time at point guard and whether he wants to keep playing there. Prior to Friday’s game, Popovich said there “is really no point guard” in San Antonio’s starting five, according to Lopez, who notes that Sochan shared ball-handling responsibilities during that game.
  • Reserve center Sandro Mamukelashvili – who hasn’t played much for San Antonio this season, logging 55 total minutes across seven appearances – took advantage of an assignment to the G League this week, McDonald writes. In his NBAGL season debut with Austin on Friday, Mamukelashvili racked up 34 points, 22 rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots. Mamukelashvili and Charles Bassey are expected to be sent to the G League more frequently to make sure they’re getting regular minutes, per McDonald.
  • Despite the Spurs’ frequent lineup changes (eight players have started at least one game), Tre Jones has been unable to crack the starting five this season after making 65 starts a year ago. That doesn’t mean the team is down on Jones though, according to McDonald (Twitter link), who says the Spurs “really, really like” the 23-year-old as a second-unit point guard for both the present and the future.

Gorgui Dieng Working For Spurs As Basketball Operations Representative

Veteran big man Gorgui Dieng never formally announced his retirement as a player, but it sounds as if he has moved onto the next stage of his career. As Jeff McDonald details for The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required), Dieng is working with the Spurs as a basketball operations representative, a title the team created for him.

According to McDonald, Dieng splits his time between the front office and coaching staff, working with general manager Brian Wright in addition to mentoring young big men like Victor Wembanyama and Charles Bassey.

“I’m very free on what I’m doing,” Dieng said. “I’m in the front office learning and doing stuff. When they start practice, I come here and help the team. I’m here just to be around them and help.”

Dieng, who will turn 34 in January, appeared in a total of 628 regular season NBA games from 2013-23, averaging 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per night for the Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Spurs, and Hawks. In 2022/23, he played in 31 games for San Antonio, providing some veteran frontcourt depth and serving as a leader in the locker room.

“Everyone around me knew I wanted to play 10 years and that was it,” Dieng said. “I always said that. When I reached 10, I said I’ve reached my goal. It was time to stop and try different stuff.”

Despite his stated desire to play just 10 years, Dieng was open to contract offers this past offseason, but didn’t generate much interest on the free agent market, McDonald reports.

The Senegalese forward/center, who has a house in San Antonio and spent some time at the team’s practice facility during the summer, approached Wright about joining the organization as an intern, according to McDonald, who says the team insisted on giving Dieng a formal position and a salary. Head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs’ players are happy to have him around.

“He’s a wonderful human being,” Popovich said. “He’s one of the all-time favorite teammates of everybody. He’s a great source of experience in the league, and anybody can talk to him.”

“He’s someone you can always talk to at any time,” Spurs guard Tre Jones agreed. “He is always open. I think just having that personal connection to everybody and having such good relationships with people, that’s what makes him who he is.”

For his part, Dieng says he’s “learning a lot of stuff” in his new role and that he’s especially enjoyed the work he’s doing in the Spurs’ front office. According to McDonald, Dieng said he can imagine himself one day becoming a team’s top basketball operations executive, but for now he’s happy to play a far more modest role in San Antonio and perhaps work his way up the ladder.

“The front office, it takes talent,” Dieng said. “It takes hard work. Us (players), we just play and go home. They put everything together.”

Spurs Notes: Losing Streak, Bassey, Vassell, Champagnie

The Spurs are searching for answers after dropping their 14th straight game Friday night in New Orleans, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. A season that began with great optimism after winning the lottery and adding Victor Wembanyama has hit a major rough spot as San Antonio has fallen into the Western Conference basement with a 3-16 record.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Keldon Johnson said. “We understand if we want to win, we have to go out there and do things it takes to win, make the right plays. The whole team understands that. We’ve just got to put it together.”

The Wembanyama era got off to a terrific start as the Spurs ended October and began November with a pair of victories at Phoenix that raised their record to 3-2. They haven’t won since then amid issues with fouling too much and not protecting the ball, which are common for young teams.

“I don’t know any ‘no turnover drills’ or any ‘no foul’ drills,” coach Gregg Popovich said after Friday’s loss. “It’s judgment. It’s decision-making. They’ve just got to figure it out.”

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • San Antonio got a lift Friday from Charles Bassey, who saw extra playing time with Wembanyama sitting out the second night of a back-to-back, McDonald notes in a separate story. Although the third-year center put up eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes, he understands those opportunities aren’t going to be frequent. “I know my role,” Bassey said. “Just go out there and bring energy to the team. I feel like I’m doing a good job of that.”
  • Devin Vassell, the Spurs’ leading scorer, has been coming off the bench in the past four games, but Popovich indicated that will change soon, McDonald adds. Vassell has been on a minutes restriction since a groin issue forced him to miss three games. “It’s a minutes thing,” Popovich said. “If he starts, he doesn’t get enough minutes.”
  • Julian Champagnie got off to a poor shooting start this season, missing 12 of his first 16 three-point attempts, but McDonald points out that he didn’t have to be concerned about his NBA future after signing a four-year contract this summer that includes a $3MM guarantee for 2023/24. Champagnie was 3-of-6 from long distance against New Orleans and has hit 11-of-20 in his last three games. “I just kept shooting, practicing, staying aggressive, getting in the gym and taking shots I know I can make,” Champagnie said. “Staying out of my own head has been the biggest thing for me.”

Spurs Notes: Vassell, Defense, Jones, Birch, Bassey

Spurs guard Devin Vassell recently signed a five-year, $135MM+ rookie scale extension. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes in a subscriber-only story, Vassell’s contract is the largest in team history.

While some may have been surprised by the price tag, his teammates say Vassell doesn’t get enough recognition.

If you really watch the league, the players in this league, the coaches, they all respect Devin,” said second-year forward Jeremy Sochan. “I feel like he is underrated, but he is a special player, too.”

After being limited to 38 games in 2022/23 due to a knee injury, Vassell spent the offseason focused on weight training to improve his conditioning and withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule. Vassell thinks the added muscle will help improve his finishing at the basket as well, according to McDonald.

Head coach Gregg Popovich believes Vassell is on the right track, both now and going forward.

He wants to prove himself, both as a player and a leader,” Popovich said. “He has already taken some big steps.”

For his part, the 23-year-old wing says he’s focused on helping the Spurs reclaim their status as a perennial playoff team and bringing a sixth championship to San Antonio.

This is where I want to be,” Vassell said, per McDonald. “Now all I am trying to do is win, get championships and put some more banners up there.”

Here’s more from San Antonio:

  • No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama has made an instant impact in training camp with his defense, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscriber link). “I came off a handoff and thought I had a wide-open three,” said forward Doug McDermott. “All of a sudden an arm comes out of nowhere and takes the ball. He’s pretty special. He’s going to dominate on that end of the floor.” Still, after finishing with the worst defense in NBA history last season, the Spurs know they can’t just rely on their prized rookie to lift them up. As Orsborn writes, Keldon Johnson struggled defensively in 2022/23, but he believes he has become an “elite defender” this offseason. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot this summer,” Johnson said. “I put a lot of hard work and time into my body and my craft in basketball. So, I’m ready. I’m excited to prove all the doubters wrong.”
  • Point guard Tre Jones, who signed a two-year, $19MM+ deal in free agency to return to the Spurs, started 65 of his 68 games last season. However, Popovich was noncommittal when asked if Jones will start in 2023/24, tweets Orsborn. “We haven’t made any decisions on who is where,” Popovich said.
  • Even after waiving Cameron Payne and Reggie Bullock, the Spurs are still facing a roster crunch, with 16 players on guaranteed contracts. Two players who might be battling for the final roster spot are centers Khem Birch and Charles Bassey, who both dealt with knee injuries last season. According to Orsborn, Popovich said the two big men have been full participants in practices thus far (Twitter link).

Western Notes: Doncic, Tenzer, Watson, McGee, Len, Spurs

Luka Doncic isn’t doing himself any favors with his constant complaining to the officials, Tim Cato of The Athletic writes. The Mavericks superstar was tossed from Slovenia’s quarterfinal loss to Canada in the FIBA World Cup. Doncic’s technical fouls in the NBA have risen in each of his five seasons. Cato notes. Doncic has publicly acknowledged over the years he needs to pipe down, but his actions haven’t reflected it. He’s a master at drawing contact but complaining about non-calls serves no useful purpose, as Cato writes.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets’ new G League general manager, Ben Tenzer, believes forward Peyton Watson will blossom in his second NBA season, he told Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. “(He) has all the potential in the world. I think it starts with his defense and his energy,” Tenzer said. “He’s such a unique player with his size and his ability to cover the court. His shot-blocking ability. I think we were able to see it a little bit when he played with the Nuggets toward the end of the season, how good he can be. So I think for him it starts with the defensive side. The offensive side will come because of his natural ability to be able to handle and attack the rim.”
  • Alex Len and JaVale McGee are expected to make the Kings’ opening night roster and compete for backup minutes at center, James Ham of tweets. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering they both have guaranteed contracts. That also means Neemias Queta and Nerlens Noel, who have partially guaranteed deals, will essentially be competing for the final roster spot, assuming Sacramento decides to carry 15 players.
  • The Spurs have 18 players on guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals. So who will be the odd men out? The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Kelly Iko explore that, plus other Spurs-related topics. Khem Birch and Charles Bassey appear to be the most vulnerable, according to Hollinger. If San Antonio is unable to deal one of its guards, then either Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock or Cedi Osman could be bought out.